From Foster Care to College: The Role of Student Affairs Practitioners in Addressing the Challenges Foster Youth Face in Accessing Higher Education

For years, the number of former foster youth in the United States has grown while the number of former foster youth enrolled and graduating from higher education institutions continues to bed is proportionately lower than that of their non-foster youth peers. The disparity in college-going rates is a result of the unique challenges that many former foster youth face in accessing and persisting in higher education. These challenges include the residual effects of the foster care experience, being an unseen population, lacking preparation for college, barriers to meeting essential needs, and navigating the intersection of multiple minority identities. This paper considers how student affairs professionals can minimize the challenges former foster youth encounter in pursuing higher education through the development of an increased understanding and acknowledgement of the unique needs and lived experiences of foster youth. This paper also offers recommendations for the implementation and improvement of services and programs to support former foster youth in accessing and persisting in higher education.

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